The Mark Twain test

[ I have enrolled in a 12 weeks travel writing course with the Matador University. As a part of our course work we have to write articles and publish them in our blog. This piece is part of the fourth assignment  which is split into three parts. This is the second part in which we have to use the destination covered in the first part and write a piece providing a perspective on some greater topic or theme.]

I look into the side view mirror. I see Tarun with his camera focussed east. I catch his eye and smile into the mirror at him. He winks. I laugh and with one click he immortalizes the moment.

” Juley” Kelkar shatters the quiet rhythm inside the SUV with the traditional Ladakhi regional greeting.
“Juley”,the Indian Army soldiers clearing the boulders off the Leh – Pangong Lake road wave back.
” Juley” I yell out to some workers resting by the road side.
” Juley” Kelkar shouts to the women with baskets on thier backs.
Soon a ” was sleeping” Anshu joins the ‘Juely’ contest.

” Juley””
” Juley”
” Juley”

Our very accomodating driver Sonam Bhyaa smiles as he negotiates a tricky turn and and hit the brakes.

” Jule …… WOW.. ”

With our mouths still open we stare in awe at the wonder that is Pangong lake.

Our arrested ‘Juleys’ gives way to a silence that is  undisturbed till we reach our campsite by the banks of the Lake.

Photo by Author

In the evening we walk to the water’s edge and sit by a pile of rocks with our feet dangling just above the surface of the water.Every once in a while we dip our feet in to the water for a split second.

” You know what this reminds of me of?”

Kelkar continues all the same pretending to ignore the lack of response, ” The Manu vs Bayern Munchen game at Camp Nou , Barcelona.”

Seriously! Here we are probably in the most beautiful place on earth and Kelkar compares the experience to a foot ball game?

“Munchen was leading with one – nil.”

Anshu clearly not paying heed to Kelkar’s narration ,” Hey doesn’t that rock over there look like the Pride Rock from the Lion King?”

Tarun sprints across to the rock and on reaching it he  grins and says, ” Race you to the pride rock”
Smart move.

Anshu and Kelkar bolt from their positions and follow suit;
Kelkar still continuing the story ” it was Basler who scored the first for Munchen”.

I didn’t budge. I look over to the three as they settle on the pride rock.
We are a comical sight. A square peg and round hole kind of comical sight.

There is Tarun, great with the camera, a level-headed and over-cautious guy. A dear friend.
Beautiful Anshu. Her beauty magnified by her sweet disposition and very pretty eyes.

Kelkar of course, the entertainer. Impulsive and fun.

And then there is the fact that we all had officially met just 3 days back, before we started the long winding journey to Leh.
Yes we are  friends of 3 days.

To bring you up to speed let me go back 3 days…
Tarun had flown in to Delhi from Georgia, US; Kelkar his friend from college flew in from Bombay. Anshu, Tarun’s childhood friend took the over night bus from Shimla and I flew in from Hyderabad to meet my dear friend from Grad school and take a road trip with two other people I had met  via the internet and the only thing we shared in common was that we each knew Tarun!

Mark Twain wrote “I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.”

I look from Tarun to Anshu to Kelkar. I ask myself ” Well, would I take a road trip with them again? ”

The winds change direction. It blows towards me carrying with it –

” And ManU scores at the 90th minute! Oh what a goal that was!

The commentator then says… everybody in this stadium will remember this day and when they do they will say ‘I was there’!! ”

I dwell on the ” I was there”…..

I look at the lake changing its colors  with the setting sun.

I will always remember this moment and when I do I will say ” I was there”.

I look from Tarun to Anshu to Kelkar again. I think back on the landslides, the road blocks and many obstacles that we went through together that brought us to this moment.

I get up dust the sand off my jeans and walk over to claim my place on the ‘Pride Rock’.

The question follows me.Would I take a road trip with them again?

Would I?
Hell YES!

Destination : Ladakh

[ I have enrolled in a 12 weeks( read more than 12 ) travel writing course with the Matador University. As a part of our course work we have to write articles and publish them in our blog. This piece is part of the fourth assignment which is split into three parts. This piece is the first part, a destination piece. It is a travel narrative containing actionable information that the reader will need to know to duplicate the itinerary.]

Ladakh which translates to” A Land of high Passes”  is a region in the state of Jammu and Kashmir in the northern most of  India. It is the most sparsely populated region in the state.

There are 2 ways of getting to Leh, the capital of Ladakh ; either by road or by air. For someone who wants to try both I would recommend driving from the capital New Delhi via Manali and then flying out. True to it’ s name the journey from Manali to Leh, takes you through some of the highest motor able roads in the world.  The trip can be done in a day or in two days . I would recommend two days; the reasons being acclimatization and the beautiful vista!

The roads are open from mid June to Mid October.   They are maintained by the BRO( Border Roads Organization). You are bound to come across military convoys transporting materials and troops to the border and back.

Day 1: Manali to Keylong

Distance : 190 Kms

Start of the long winding road

Rohtang Pass :- 13,051 ft above sea level

Rohtang means ‘A pile of corpses’ owing to its unpredictable landslides and blizzards coupled with the narrow road.

Start early from Manali. Unless the Gods are very pleased with you chances are you will be stuck at the pass due to bad weather or due to a traffic jam.

Traffic jam at 14,000 ft

Once you cross Rohtang Pass local dhabba are scarce. Stock  up on food and petrol before you start from Manali. You never know how long you will be stuck at the Pass.

En-route to Keylong, stop at Tandi to refuel . This is the last petrol Pump till you reach Leh a good 380 Km away.

Keylong: 10,104 feet

Keylong is the administrative centre of the Lahaul and Spiti district in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. There are many guest houses located here. Alternately one could also spend the night at Jispa which is 21 km away and at the same altitude.

Jispa is the last stop along the journey where one can use modern comforts. After you leave Jispa you have  only tented accommodation all the way to Leh.

Day 2: Keylong to Leh

Distance: About 290 Km

The second day takes you through a series of peaks and valleys.  While you ascend you will need to keep warm against the chill winds and while you descend you will start to sweat thanks to the scorching sun.

Beautiful Scenary

The scenery changes from snow covered hills to sand dunes, from glaciers to running streams.

Baralacha La: 16040 ft

Stop for breakfast at Baralacha at one of the road side tents.  Meals are basic  but indeed expensive.  The menu consists mainly of noodles and bread and omelet.

Breakfast at 16,000 ft

Sarchu: 14075 ft

Sarchu is the last town of the state of Himachal Pradesh. Once you cross Sarchu you enter into Jammu and Kashmir.  Sarchu is a valley village where the main occupation of the locals is animal husbandry.  So do not be surprised if you your way is blocked by hundreds of goats crossing the road.

Pang: 15584 ft

Pang boasts of the highest army transit camp in the world. Stop here for lunch and a stretch. The sun is overhead by now and it is bound to get uncomfortably hot, so make sure you apply your sunscreen  lotion before continuing to Leh.

Tanglang La: 17582 ft

The   second highest motor-able road in the world is 21 ghat loops from Pang. Stop here before you start your descend into Leh to enjoy the fresh high altitude air.

Tanglang La

Leh:11562 ft

‘Juley’! Welcome to Leh.


Useful Information
Ice-Berg Tours and Travels
Near Beas Brudge, Manali
H.P -175131
Ph: +91 980 537 1076
Ladakh Trek and Travel
Mentokling Complex, Changspa Road, Leh -Ladakh 194 101
Ph: +91- 990 698 7622
Home stay
Owner: Tsering Nurboo (Challi)
Ph: +91 1982 252487